Jack Wilshere insists he has done what has been asked of him by club and country as he toasted a return to the England squad by starring in Arsenal’s win over AC Milan.
The 26-year-old has not represented the Three Lions since their galling Euro 2016 exit at the hands of Iceland but has been called up for the first time since November of that year when he was on loan at Bournemouth.
A string of injury-hit seasons had threatened to end his international career prematurely, while his place at Arsenal was also at risk.
Now, Wilshere is fit and firing on all cylinders, becoming an integral part of Arsene Wenger’s side and earning the England recall manager Gareth Southgate had promised once he had done so.
Speaking after Arsenal’s 3-1 Europa League second-leg victory over Milan, which saw the Gunners into the quarter-finals, Wilshere maintained he never doubted he could achieve his ambitions.
“I knew what I had to do,” he said.
“Not just the England manager, but the Arsenal manager made it clear what he wanted from me. He wanted me to prove my fitness. And I think I have done that now.
“The manager (Southgate) made it clear what he wanted me to do, get some games for Arsenal in the Premier League. I have done that and he has been true to his word. It is down to me to repay him now.
“It was hard, it was tough. Back in the summer when I was watching the boys training not knowing if I was staying or was I leaving.
“Once I knew I was staying I was determined to get my head down and get back into the team. It is always an honour to play for my country, I have said that many times. I never gave up hope. I believed in myself and I believed in my ability. ”
While Wilshere stayed at the Emirates Stadium last summer, working his way back into the Premier League fold by his strong showings in the Europa League, he could still be set to leave this year.
His contract is up at the end of the season and there are mixed messages coming from Wilshere and Wenger as to where negotiations currently stand.
“We will see,” Wilshere replied when asked if he will be staying beyond the current campaign.
“First and foremost it is important that we focus on football. When the time is right me and the boss will sit down and have a conversation and see where we go from there.”
Arsenal eased past their Serie A opponents having led 2-0 from the first leg in the San Siro a week prior.
There was controversy surrounding the second-leg result as, following Hakan Calhanoglu’s long-range strike to reduce Milan’s deficit, Danny Welbeck was awarded a dubious penalty after going down under minimal contract from Ricardo Rodriguez.
On the day he too returned to the England squad, Welbeck was accused of a “blatant dive” by former Three Lions captains Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker.
The decision was so soft, almost three-quarters of respondents to a poll sent out from the official Arsenal Twitter account said they would not have awarded the penalty.
But Wenger refused to criticise the former Manchester United forward, who later headed in a second after Granit Xhaka’s tame effort had put Arsenal ahead on the night, saying he had not seen the incident again.